Noel Sinclair Aasen
|HOME OF RECORD:
Bemidji, MN (1)
|NEXT OF KIN:
Mother, Mrs. Agnes Aasen
|DATE OF BIRTH:
9/20/1941 – 10/30/1945
|DATE OF DEATH:
|LAST KNOWN RANK:
Noel Aasen was born on March 21, 1920, in the town of Bemidji, Minnesota. He was the youngest son of Norwegian immigrants Louis (born Lars) and Agnes Aasen, raised in a solidly blue-collar family whose primary occupation was lumbering. Louis’ death in 1936 resulted in Noel’s leaving school after the eighth grade; he became a laborer and in 1940 listed his occupation as a “shoveler” in road construction. Enlisting in the Marine Corps would have seemed like a great opportunity to make a better living.
After enlisting, Aasen trained at MCRD San Diego and had just completed boot camp when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His first wartime duty was with the guard at the Naval Ammunition Depot in Oahu, Hawaii; after a promotion to Private First Class he was transferred to the depot’s 2nd Guard Company in April, 1942.
Aasen would remain at the depot for the next two years. He earned a sharpshooter’s badge on January 15, 1943; a promotion to corporal followed that spring, and a sergeant’s third stripe that winter.
In the spring of 1944, Aasen was transferred back across the country to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was assigned to the 65th Replacement Draft, and in July 1944 accrued the only black mark of his Marine career – AWOL from 1630 on the 30th to 0545 on the 31st. For his unauthorized evening off, Aasen was to be reduced in rank, but his commander remitted the sentence on the condition that he maintain a good record for the next six months.
Sergeant Aasen was rated as an infantry squad leader, and it was in that capacity that he joined Company B, 24th Marines in the fall of 1944. The company had just returned from hard fighting on Saipan and Tinian, and was far below strength. As a replacement NCO, Aasen would have had to work overtime to earn the trust and respect of his peers and subordinates, some of whom had experienced three bloody campaigns.
In February 1945, Noel Aasen landed on Iwo Jima at the head of a Baker Company rifle squad. He survived numerous maneuvers and assaults on terrain features like the Quarry, the Amphitheater, Turkey Knob and Hill 382 (known collectively as the Meat Grinder). At 0730 on March 4, Baker Company led another attempt to annihilate the Japanese troops to their front. Within an hour, a fierce firefight developed, killing and wounding many in the first few moments. The fight would continue for the rest of the day, at ranges too close for supporting weapons.
At some point during this fight, Sergeant Aasen was struck in the face by a flying piece of shrapnel. Some of his comrades managed to bring him to the rear, where he was treated and passed on to the regimental aid station. The next day, Aasen boarded an aircraft flying out of the recently captured Motoyama Airfield, and headed for a hospital on Guam. His days of fighting on Iwo Jima were over.
From Guam, Aasen was transferred to Naval Hospital #128. By May, he was considered fit for duty and was returned to his company. He spent the remaining months of the war training for the invasion of Japan; in July he traveled to San Diego as a prisoner escort, but returned to duty in time to celebrate the war’s end.
Aasen was honorably discharged on October 30, 1945. He returned to Minnesota and settled in Bemidji, where he and his brother Melvin owned and operated Mel-No Mink Fur Farm for a few years. He married Pearl Nelson in 1950 and, thanks to a 34-year career with the Northern Pacific/Burlington Northern Railroad, they were able to raise five children. (2)
Noel Aasen died at his home in Brainerd on January 18, 2001. He is buried in Minnesota State Veteran’s Cemetery.
(1) Aasen listed his mother as his next of kin. At the time, she was residing in Portland, Oregon, so Aasen occasionally appears on lists of Oregon casualties of the war. However, there is no indication that he ever resided in the state.
(2) Brainerd Dispatch obituary, January 20, 2001